Seanad debates

Tuesday, 21 June 2005

6:00 pm

Photo of Seán PowerSeán Power (Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Kildare South, Fianna Fail)

I thank Senator Kitt for raising this matter on the Adjournment to which I am happy to reply.

The report of the national advisory committee on palliative care was launched on 4 October 2001. It describes a comprehensive palliative care service and acts as a blueprint for its development. It is planned that the report's recommendations will be implemented over a five to seven year period.

The Department of Health and Children, the Health Service Executive and the voluntary sector are actively involved in planning for the development of palliative care services in line with the recommendations in the report of the national advisory committee. Funding is being provided for the development of such services on an incremental basis nationally in line with the recommendations in the report.

Since October 2001, an additional €16.384 million has been invested in palliative care services, including €2 million in additional funding that has been made available specifically for palliative care in 2005. This funding has been used to improve palliative care services in line with the recommendations in the report.

As the Senator will be aware, the provision of health services in County Galway is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the HSE, western area. It has advised my Department that an addendum to its service plan for 2005 was submitted to the acting chief executive officer of the HSE in December 2004 in respect of the palliative care suite at Áras Mhuire. The addendum set out the additional resources in terms of whole-time equivalents and funding required to open the unit. The additional resources required are 5.5 whole-time equivalent staff nurse posts and physiotherapy services. Their provision will require the allocation of €260,000.

The HSE, western area, has further advised that the structural work on this unit is complete, it is ready to be occupied and will provide accommodation for two persons with additional facilities to enable family members to remain overnight, if required.

For the service to operate, additional resources involving whole-time equivalents and revenue funding are required. It is understood that this is under consideration by the HSE. The HSE, western area, has stated it is aware of an anonymous offer of €100,000, being made available, on a once-off basis, subject to the proviso that a similar sum be made available to the unit by the HSE, western area. Senator Kitt mentioned this donation. I compliment the anonymous donor on such a lovely gesture. At a time when those who avoid paying their taxes are the subject of many of the headlines, it is nice to see there are still people who donate their own money anonymously for such wonderful causes. I hope the kindness of the person in question will be matched by the HSE.

Management of the HSE, western area, met members of the Tuam cancer care committeeto discuss this donation in recent weeks. While the offer of additional funding is generous, the HSE advised the organisation that it is not possible for it to open the unit on the basis of an offer of once-off funding. However, it is not too often that we receive such offers. I will contact the HSE over the coming days to ascertain how best we can avail of the donor's generosity and try to provide a very necessary service. I will communicate with the Senator in the near future.

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